“For you have heard of my previous way of life…”
Galatians 1:13 (NIV)
You might remember the movie, “Trading Places.” A wily con artist and a rich stockbroker are forced to trade places, each stepping into the role of the other. The result made for an interesting comedy.
There is another story of trading places – in the Bible – the story of Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a Pharisee, and Pharisees were the religious role models of first-century Judea. They were what news people today might call spiritual superstars or paragons of piety. They sat in the place of honour at banquets, had the best seats in the synagogues and enjoyed the respectful greetings of people in the marketplace. They sat in the seat of the great prophet Moses, dressed as wise teachers of the law, with broad phylacteries and long fringes on their garments. You could not miss them. They were power dressers. People called them rabbi, which literally means “my great one.”
Speaking to a group of Pharisees, Jesus said in Matthew 23:27-28, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
Saul of Tarsus was one of the men whom Jesus said was full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Saul was an enemy of the gospel, actively hunting down and jailing followers of Jesus. He thought he was doing God service, but he had no concept that true righteousness and justice exist only in Jesus Christ.
One day, while Saul was hurrying to Damascus to capture more Christians, Jesus met him along the road. Saul came away from the experience blinded and humbled. Three days later his vision was restored, he was baptized and began to preach that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Soon afterward, the Bible begins calling him Paul.
Even if you are God’s enemy, he loves you anyway, and wants to make you his friend. And that’s the ultimate in “trading places.”
“Come to me,” all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” [Matthew 11:28-30].
So, how about you? God already loves you, no matter what your past is like. In Jesus, he has already forgiven your sins and done everything needed for your salvation. So why not turn to him, take up your cross, and follow him? He’s waiting for you to come home, and his porch light never goes out.
Father, thank you for Jesus who died on my behalf so that I could become one of your children. Thank you for your unconditional love.
Study by Joseph Tkach